family - ACDelco TechConnect
volume 22 issue 1 2007
Working and winning are the ties
that bind Kurt and Warren Johnson
inside: 60 Series Marine Battery Launches
A look at the New ACDelco Ad CAmpaign
2006 National Convention Recap
The new look
Two great forces have come together to give you the absolute best in diagnostics.
Since 1984, Vetronix has built the best diagnostic equipment in the industry. And
for over 100 years, Bosch has meant superior reliability, service and quality.
Together, these two powerful entities mean unsurpassed excellence. Call us at
800-321-4889, extension 4, to find out how Vetronix/Bosch Group can help your
shop become the most effi cient and profitable it can be.
©2006 Robert Bosch Corporation.
haul in the family
Working and winning are the ties that bind Kurt
and Warren Johnson
12 Steps to Becoming Technician of the Millennium IV
Scot Manna tells what it took to walk away with
hip to be square
Younger drivers trick out old models and make
them a hot, new commodity
Updated look for ACDelco spark plugs; new belt
technology reduces noise; 60 Series Marine
The 2006 ACDelco National Convention
New ACDelco advertising materials promote
healthy business for shops
New mover mailings help target new customers;
MechanicNet links TSS sites to acdelco.com; Dale
Carnegie Courses help shops improve communication
Jim Van Dyke’s Automotive Center turns small-town
appeal into a big business
one more thing ...
INTUNE ADVISORY BOARD
Director, ACDelco Marketing Nancy McLean
ManageR, ACDelco Advertising Chris Brandt
advertising specialist Renee David
PUBLISHING STAFF: Editor Lori Bremerkamp • Art Director Matt Tierney • Project manager Jacquie Lauth
Account manager Dana Boyette • Managing Director Jeremy Morris • Account director Angelo Acord • Copy Editor Kathy Eichenberg
Production/Circulation Carolyn Brooks • PROJECT COORDINATOR Jason Georgen
Intune is published for ACDelco, General Motors Corp., by Campbell-Ewald Publishing, 30400 Van Dyke Ave., Warren, MI 48093, e-mail: [email protected]
General Motors is an equal-opportunity employer. Manuscripts and photographs are submitted at the sender’s risk. Please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope for
return of material. Submission of letters implies the right to edit and publish. Copyright ©2006, 2007 by Campbell-Ewald Publishing. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
teach them your language
— no longer has to be a mystery to your customers. The Car Care
Council has published a new, first-of-its-kind guide that translates
te c h n i c a l au to moti ve
j a rg o n i nto eve r yd ay
l a n g u ag e c o nsu m e r s
The Car Care Guide
i n c l u d e s c l e a r, c o n cise descriptions of 12
major vehicle systems
and parts. There’s also
a checklist reminder for
when ser vices should
be performed; however,
always check your vehicle’s Owner’s Manual for the proper maintenance schedule.
“The guide helps the consumer better understand their vehicle,
what kind of care it needs, when it needs it and why,” says Rich
White, Car Care Council executive director.
He notes that the guide is also a valuable tool for shop employees
to use when discussing recommended maintenance and repairs with
customers. “It not only provides an unbiased third-party source, it
puts the language in clear, friendly terms, helping customers feel
more at ease in the auto repair environment,” White says.
The 56-page, glove box-sized booklets are available to order in
quantity online at carcare.org or by calling (240) 333-1088. •
The Car Care Council’s new guide puts automotive jargon
into clear terms that your consumers can understand.
Photo by larry hamill
Vehicle maintenance — and the terminology surrounding it
5 fast rapport builders
Want to help boost your bottom line? It’s a matter of
trust, says John Boe, a professional speaker, author
and sales training expert.
“One of the most important aspects of selling is
creating a solid foundation of trust and rapport with
your customers,” Boe explains.
He suggests five simple, yet effective, ideas for
building customer rapport:
1. Gain a competitive edge. Make a
positive first impression. Organize your
thoughts when speaking with customers,
rather than talking off the cuff.
2. Promote your credibility. Display credentials and awards clearly. Keep marketing materials looking professional and up
3. Use active listening skills. Listen to
customers without interrupting them. Occasionally repeat their words verbatim to clarify
your understanding and build rapport.
4. Adjust to your customer’s temperament style. Cut to the chase with an
impatient customer, but take extra time
and provide greater detail with a customer
who is cautious and analytical.
5. Have positive body language. Actions
speak louder than words. Keep your
body language positive by unfolding your
arms, nodding your head in agreement
and smiling frequently. •
popular with shops
the most popular tools within the Learning Management
The 10- to 15-minute training sessions are a fast, easy way
to stay up to date with new information on a component or system. They cover topics like voltage drop testing, reprogramming
modules, micrometer basics, electric power steering systems,
Bluetooth and PhatNoise operation, and diagnosis.
TechAssists also provide service technicians with quick
access to text, photographs, animations and narrations that
deliver key service and product information on a multitude
of service concerns, product components and operations.
“TechAssists provide just-in-time information,” explains Todd
Dawn, ACDelco manager of aftermarket training. “For example, our Bluetooth Operation & Diagnosis TechAssist gives an
overview of the operational characteristics and troubleshooting considerations for the Bluetooth capability on GM vehicles.
If you’ve never set up a Bluetooth interface, the TechAssist
can help teach you how to connect your Bluetooth device to
compatible GM vehicles.”
ACDelco recently introduced about 50 new TechAssists.
Four new sessions will continue to be added each week.
Access TechAssists at acdelcotechconnect.com by clicking
on the “Training” tab. •
TechAssists offer service technicians quick access to
training tools such as the video shown below.
Photo courtesy gil’s garage
ACDelco’s new TechAssists are quickly becoming one of
named top shop
Gil’s Garage, an ACDelco Total Service Support member in
Burnt Hills, N.Y., has been named a 2006 Top Shop by Motor
President Mike Brewster says he’s proud that his shop’s
long-standing success has been recognized. “My goal is
to create an optimum workplace for my employees and to
treat ever ybody on
the other side of the
counter as I would
want to be treated,”
That means offering employe e s life,
health and dental
insurance, a 401( k)
plan, profit sharing,
and paid training. What’s more, monthly staff meetings focus
on improving the business and addressing employee issues.
Brewster even throws holiday parties during off hours and
promotes family vacations.
He similarly promotes community involvement by sponsoring
numerous youth sports, along with two golf tournaments that
benefit local charities. Employees regularly attend career days
for local schools. The community has responded with a steady
stream of business.
Every repair is preceded with a conference with the customer.
Questions are encouraged. “It lets them know that not only are
their automotive issues being addressed, but they’re being cared
for as family,” Brewster says. •
new look, same great performance
Appearance updates provide more consistency for ACDelco plug lines
CDelco spark plugs are sporting a new look that gives them
an appearance more consistent
with ACDelco’s wide range of
automotive plugs. The design changes affect
49 different part numbers across select lines,
including Conventional, RAPIDFIRE® Performance, and Professional Platinum.
“The spark plugs with the new look are
completely interchangeable with those that
have the previous design,” explains Robert
Malone, ACDelco product development manager. “They also can be mixed and matched in
an engine with no impact on performance.”
In addition to the new look, the name printed
on the box for the RAPIDFIRE Performance line
now reads R A PI DFIR E Performance Platinum Plug.
“The change positions RAPIDFIRE as a single platinum
performance spark plug in the market,” Malone says.
Other changes include:
• ACDelco Conventional spark plugs now have a ceramic
insulator rib configuration of one fat, two skinny to
standardize the appearance.
• ACDelco Professional Platinum and RAPIDFIRE Performance Platinum spark plugs now feature a ribless
ceramic insulator design to help improve the spark
plug-to-boot contact surface area.
• Select spark plugs now have a longer shell body that
helps give consistent spark plug resistor performance,
while maintaining the overall spark plug length.
• All spark plugs now feature the ACDelco logo. •
ACDelco quiets the competition
Patented technology helps reduce noise in new belt line
e’ve all heard it. That
a n n o y i n g, h ig hpitched sq uea l
that ac ts l i ke a
siren, aler ting you that something’s not right under the hood.
It’s b elt noi s e. A nd w it h t he
exception of brake squeal, there
are few vehicle problems that irritate motorists more.
ACDelco is offering a new solution
to the age-old belt noise problem with its
introduction of V-ribbed serpentine belts,
featuring advanced technology that makes
them among the quietest in the aftermarket. In
fact, it’s so advanced it’s patented.
“This is a major improvement in aftermarket
belt construction and technology,” says Chris
Vermette, product specialist, ACDelco belts and hoses.
“With quieter operation and enhanced durability, these new
belts provide superior levels of performance that should
make them appealing to consumers.”
The EPDM construction and gum-backed overcords
are similar to what is used on original equipment
(OE) vehicle belts. They also have a wider temperature range and less shrink/stretch, so they meet OE
f it a nd per for ma nce cr iter ia as wel l as leng th
“These characteristics give the new belts better capability to deal with the more aggressive OE
belt-drive systems,” Vermette says, adding that
part numbers will stay the same as the new belts
are introduced as running changes to ACDelco’s
Contact your local ACDelco sales represent
ative or ACDelco WD for more information. •
new force on the water
The 60 Series Marine Battery offers AN alternative to the ACDelco Voyager® linE
ustomers have long trusted ACDelco Voyager® Batteries for their outstanding performance, unique maintenance-free design and long streams of power to
accommodate the most rigorous usages, longest runs
with the trolling motors and starting the largest marine engines
on the market.
Now, they can enjoy many of these same benefits at a lower
price with the introduction of ACDelco 60 Series Marine Batteries.
“We’re giving our customers an alternative that is costefficient, while still maintaining the quality and value they
know,” says Doug Merrill, ACDelco product specialist. “The
60 Series Marine Battery offers enough marine cranking
amps (MCA) to start the most demanding outboard out
there, while our Deep Cycle Battery will help keep them
fishing for a long time.”
The new marine line includes four parts numbers in two group
sizes offering both deep-cycle (ACDM24DC and ACDM27DC)
and cranking (ACDM24C and ACDM27C) designs.
Merrill encourages ACDelco WDs and shop owners to
let their customers know that the 60 Series Marine Battery
offers great power per dollar.
“ACDelco 60 Series Marine Batteries typically have more
power and cost less than comparable competitor batteries,”
Merrill says. “Design features include dual terminals and an
integral handle for easy transport. We also offer a competitive
warranty, making this new marine application a high-value
offering at a very competitive price.”
For more on the 60 Series Marine Batteries, call 1-800ACDelco or log on to acdelco.com, select the Parts Information
tab, then the Batteries link. •
Visit acdelco.com and
select the Parts Information
tab for a complete listing of
ACDelco’s quality parts.
ACDelco uses its national convention to showcase technology, services and products, and general sessions with
its aftermarket commitment key business information. They were also treated to the ACDelco
by lori bremerkamp
event photography by kris kerbawy
hat happened in Vegas isn’t staying in Vegas
— at least when it comes to the relationships
built and the knowledge gained at the 2006
ACDelco National Convention.
ACDelco said thank-you in a big way by bringing more
than 6,000 of its employees, Dedicated Distribution Group
members, Total Service Support accounts, Alliance Jobber
customers and their guests to the Mandalay Bay Convention
Center, Oct. 25–28, for its “Winning Customers Together”
Attendees gained a better understanding of ACDelco’s collective business through training seminars, an expo highlighting
Technician of the Millennium IV finals, which unfolded Friday
morning in a staged area of the expo hall.
The convention came to a close Saturday evening with
ACDelco hosting a reception and awards banquet during
which Scot Manna of MB Automotive Inc. in Des Plaines, Ill.,
was crowned the Technician of the Millennium IV.
The enthusiasm generated by the convention carried over
into Sunday. Manna joined other ACDelco customers at The
Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to cheer on Kurt Johnson
at the sixth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals.
“Our customers are vital to our success,” says Paul Johnson,
general director, Global Independent Aftermarket. “The convention and events surrounding it are another example of how
we’re committed to offering them the products and services
they need to continue to grow our mutual business and win
customers together.” •
Photo by iSTOCKPHOTO
The convention’s expo hall highlighted
technology, such as the GM fuel cell car shown
at top, and displayed the wide array of products
and services available from ACDelco and its
TSS preferred vendors.
Technician of the
Millennium IV Finals
Upper left: The eight finalists.
Above: Finalist Scot Manna and his “team.”
At left, below and bottom left: The race is on.
Bottom right: Manna is crowned Technician
of the Millennium IV during the banquet.
Top: ACDelco-sponsored Kurt Johnson takes
the lead in qualifying rounds of the sixth
annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals.
Middle row and above: Attendees gained a
better understanding of ACDelco’s collective
business through training seminars.
Left: Billy F Gibbons of ZZ Top signs autographs
in the ACDelco hospitality tent.
New ACDelco ad campaign promotes
healthy business for shops
By Amy Lynn Smith
CDelco is sending a powerful message to consumers with its brand-new advertising campaign: ACDelco parts — and the Total Service
Support (TSS) members who install them — are
the key to keeping their vehicles in tiptop shape.
In fact, TSS members are central to the new campaign that includes radio spots, newspaper ads and
direct mail pieces.
National radio ads will direct consumers to the
Service Center Locator on acdelco.com, where they
can find TSS members in their local area. All ISCs
can tag local ads and direct mail postcards with
their business name and special offers for their own
individual local market plans.
The campaign’s ultimate objective is to drive
more consumers to TSS members, says Chris Brandt,
ACDelco advertising manager. “Our ‘Real Car Guys
Know’ campaign helped us attract a network of
quality shops to ACDelco and the TSS Program,”
he explains. “Now, with our new campaign, we’re
making sure consumers know that ACDelco’s quality
extends to the technicians who install our parts.”
The right medicine
The new campaign, built around the tagline “The Pros Who
Know,” positions ACDelco and its TSS members as aftermarket
experts consumers can trust. The concept is reinforced by the
campaign design. It draws parallels between vehicle service
and health care by imaginatively combining elements from
both disciplines to create compelling images, such as a
stethoscope with an air filter as the chest piece.
“We’re showing how the role of a TSS technician in a
shop is similar to that of a doctor in a hospital,” Brandt says.
“They both must diagnose a problem and determine the
cause before fixing it. The graphics demonstrate this and
will definitely capture consumers’ attention.”
T he ca mpa ig n idea ca me f rom i n-dept h con su mer
research through which ACDelco learned that although
consumers believe quality parts equate to quality service,
they don’t necessarily ask for these parts. “They told us
they usua l ly buy what their techn ician recommends,”
We’re showing how the
role of a TSS technician in
a shop is similar to that of
a doctor in a hospital. They
both must diagnose
a problem and
determine the cause
before fixing it.
— Chris Brandt, ACDelco advertising manager
ACDelco also listened closely to feedback from its TSS
Advisory Council. “Our TSS members want consumers
to know that they are professionally trained; they use
ACDelco products because they want to get the job done
right the first time; and that they really care about their
customers,” Brandt says. “I think our new campaign
accomplishes just that.”
Strong vital signs
While the new messaging will help raise awareness of the
ACDelco brand among consumers, your use of the materials is integral in driving business to your doorstep.
New direct mail postcards are being incorporated into the
MechanicNet Customer Retention System (CRS) so you can
create mailings using the new campaign elements and send
them to your own targeted customer list. “You can work with
your ACDelco WD to arrange funding or pay for the mailing
yourself,” Brandt says.
You’ll also soon be able to work with your ACDelco WD
to tag the ads with your business name and include special
offers that can help bring in more customers.
As always, your local ACDelco sales representative will work
closely with you to help you make the most of the advertising
materials — particularly during ACDelco’s national promotions.
“As a promotion approaches, your local ACDelco sales
representative and ACDelco W D salesperson will work
The new campaign combines vehicle service
and health care elements to creatively draw
parallels between the disciplines.
with you to develop an overall plan,” Brandt says. “We’ve
designed everything so our people in the regions have
everything at their fingertips — right where it should be
— because they understand your needs and your local
Contact your ACDelco WD or local ACDelco sales representa
tive to take advantage of the new campaign elements. •
them to the
Photo by Veer
R.J. Conlin Direct’s New Mover Mailer service
helps introduce your business to new residents
our client base can dwindle when customers move
out of the area or purchase newer vehicles requiring
less maintenance and repair. While there’s not much
you can do to prevent it, you can always be on the
lookout for new customers.
Joe Peil, owner of Joe’s Auto Service, a Total Service Support
(TSS) member in Carmel, Ind., says his client base erodes by
3% to 5% annually. Despite this inevitable loss of customers,
Peil’s “net” client base has doubled in the past year, thanks, in
part, to R.J. Conlin Direct’s New Mover Mailer service, part of
the ACDelco TSS Direct Mail program.
Each month, R.J. Conlin Direct sends out a letter of introduction and a free oil change coupon on Peil’s behalf to
people who have recently moved into the shop’s neighborhood. Peil estimates that more than 200 letters go out each
month, and that he receives a consistent 10% response rate
from each mailing.
That’s outstanding, considering most direct mail
campaigns are deemed successful at around a 1%
“The service is a great entry into direct mail since there
are no minimums to send out each month,” Peil says.
“Whether you send out five pieces or 500, the cost is just $1.24
When a TSS member calls in to R.J. Conlin Direct, an
account executive helps them narrow down the right kind of
new mover they want based on income, ZIP code, distance
from the shop’s location and other criteria. Once the target
new mover is determined, the rest of the process takes only
about 10 minutes.
“This is a great avenue for anyone interested in growing
their client base, increasing revenue and creating long-term
relationships with their customers,” Peil says.
To enroll in the service, contact Michael Minor of R.J. Conlin
Direct at 1-800-246-9177. •
online searches made easy
MECHANICNET-powered TSS Web sites now linked to acdelco consumer site
otal Service Support (TSS) members that subscribe
to the MechanicNet Customer Retention System
(CRS) have yet another benefit to celebrate: Service
Center Locator searches on acdelco.com now feature
links to TSS member Web sites powered by MechanicNet.
The ACDelco-templated sites are created, maintained and
hosted by MechanicNet. Information includes shop history,
location, services offered, hours, promotions and products. It
can be easily updated or changed.
Erin Wong, MechanicNet sales and marketing manager, says
while the site links will increase shop visibility to customers, the
key advantage for TSS members is the “My Car” section of each
site, where shop customers can track vehicle service history,
maintenance schedules and request an online appointment.
“It’s yet another reason why consumers will be drawn to
TSS sites powered by MechanicNet and, in turn, to the shops
themselves,” Wong says.
Interested in learning more about MechanicNet CRS? Call
1-800-825-5886, prompt 4 for details. •
The “My Car” section of each site lets customers track vehicle service history, view maintenance schedules and request an online appointment.
connect with your customers
Dale Carnegie Training teaches shop owners how to better communicate with consumers
Photo by Janine Menlove
Dale Carnegie training taught Dave Dainton
better ways to communicate with customers.
to dea l w ith
customers is just
as important as having the
proper tools and technical
know-how when running
a successful automotive
To help shop personnel develop better people
sk i l ls, ACDelco tea ms
w ith Da le Carneg ie
Courses to offer Total Serv
ice Support (TSS) members discounted training.
Dave Dainton, owner
of Spartan Tire & Service
of Lansing in Lansing,
M ic h ., s ay s t h e D a l e
Carnegie Course taught
him skills that help him
better communicate with
“I ncor porat i ng t he
Da le Ca r neg ie Cou rse
principles was challengi ng at f i rs t b ec au s e I
was so set in my ways,”
But he kept work ing
at it. “Now, I’m building
deeper, more persona l
c on ne c t ion s w it h my
customers all because of
the new way I’m com-
municating with them,”
He adds that the training is a wise investment
for all TSS members. “We
always invest in the technology and tools to repair
the cars, but investing
in people skills is just as
important — if not more
so,” Dainton says. “We’re
more than just a product,
we’re a service. We deal
with people. Our economy
here in Michigan has been
a challenge, but thanks
to our customer service,
we’re still doing well.” •
you can trust
Jim Van Dyke’s Automotive Center turns
small-town appeal into a big business
by Kathy Sena
photography by larry hamill
im Van Dyke had just three employees when he started
out in 2001 in a 2,400-square-foot shop in Washington
Court House, Ohio. He wrote the service orders; his
son Raymond worked as a technician; and his stepson
Dustin handled the phones and the front desk.
Six months later, Jim Van Dyke’s Automotive Center had
about 1,500 customers. Not bad for a new shop in a town of only
Of course, living and holding various auto-repair jobs in the
same area for 30 years prior helped to make Van Dyke well
known around town. But there was something more that drew
people from as far away as the next county to his small shop.
Customers knew that when they took their vehicle to Jim Van
Dyke, he’d be straight with them.
“Our motto is ‘A Name You Can Trust’ because I feel that
there’s nothing more important than personal integrity,” Van
Dyke says. “It’s very important to me that my customers can
trust me. We’re down-home, down-to-earth people and are
blessed to have so many loyal customers in this area.”
Rooted in the community
Community involvement and building trust with his customers
— which now number around 3,500 — have been the foundations
of Van Dyke’s business philosophy from the start.
In addition to being active in his church, he helps sponsor American Legion baseball, the local Humane Society chapter, the Fayette
County Junior Fair, the local high school athletic program, South Central Ohio Big Brothers Big Sisters, the local kids’ fishing derby, Junior
Achievement and the Fayette County Sheriff’s Safety Pup program.
“We love sponsoring family-oriented, wholesome activities in
the community,” Van Dyke says. “It’s important that you have a
conscience, that you strive to do a good job, and that you give
back to the community any way you can. It’s the right thing to do.
And when you run your business that way, people are happy to
refer you to their friends.”
Being an ACDelco Total Service Support (TSS) member helps
as well. Business has been so good, in fact, that he’s recently
expanded to a new 6,800-square-foot facility with seven bays.
The staff has grown to 12 employees, which include Van Dyke’s
son Raymond, who has taken the position of service advisor, and
Van Dyke’s wife, Merleen, who handles accounting, public relations and advertising. Van Dyke is now able to spend more time
managing the business and helping wherever needed.
While orange and black may have been the colors of the day
when he opened the doors to his new facility on Halloween 2005,
Van Dyke choose ACDelco’s highly recognized color scheme — a
red, white and blue motif — for the lobby, exterior and shop areas.
“We went all out with ACDelco’s image elements for our flooring, signage and paint,” he says. “The entire shop has a bright,
clean look that our customers really appreciate. Selling ACDelco
parts and proudly displaying ACDelco colors and signage helped
establish the business as a high-quality shop from the start.”
Opposite: Jim and Merleen Van Dyke in front of their newly expanded shop.
Right: The customer service team in the lobby. Below: Van Dyke’s bright,
clean and airy service area.
In addition to the usual diagnostics equipment, Van Dyke has outfitted each service
bay with a PC (above). All the technicians
are ASE-certified and Van Dyke proudly
displays their credentials in the lobby (right).
Taking training to heart
Just two years after graduating from
high school in 1973, Van Dyke bought
a gas station with two service bays in
nearby Greenfield, Ohio, where he now
lives. In 1984, he moved to a Chevrolet dealership in Washington Court
House, working as a tech and then a shop foreman. It was
there that he went from being a “points and condensers man”
to falling in love with the hot new thing in automotive-repair
“I had no clue just how much computer technology would
come to change the way we did business two decades later,”
Van Dyke says.
He adds that technician training has been a big part of
his shop’s success, noting that all five of his technicians are
ASE certified. Van Dyke himself has been an ASE master
tech since 1979.
“ACDelco training has been a great help for my technicians
when they’re preparing for their ASE-certification tests,” says
Van Dyke, who has installed a PC in each of his service bays.
His techs go online for ACDelco training at their convenience.
They also appreciate being able to access electronic manuals
and repair bulletins through “Mitchell on Demand,” which
ACDelco provides through the WISE program.
Investing in PCs throughout the shop has paid off in
increased efficiency and sales, Van Dyke notes. “It’s all
integrated: the shop, the parts house and the front desk,”
he adds. “It wasn’t cheap to install the equipment, but it
speeds up the way we do things. If someone had asked me
30 years ago if we would need computers to work on cars, I
would have thought they were nuts. But look at us today. It’s
a critical part of running this business.”
Van Dyke also is a big fan of the MechanicNet Customer
Retention System, which lets TSS owners upload customer
information to a database. The program then sends out customer-reminder postcards. Van Dyke’s customers can log on to
the shop’s Web site (jimvandyke.com), click on “My Car” and
type in an access code written on their reminder postcard to
view their car’s repair history and to schedule appointments.
“It’s a great way to encourage customer loyalty,” he says.
With their ACDelco affiliation, their savvy use of technology and 3,500 happy customers who recommend the shop to
their friends, Jim Van Dyke’s Automotive Center is poised for
an even more exciting future. “We look forward to many more
years of success,” Van Dyke says. “This has been a dream
come true for us.” •
Working and winning are the ties
that bind Kurt and Warren Johnson
By DOUG NEWCOMB | photography by TADD MEYERS
t’s not easy to keep up with Kurt and
Warren Johnson on the track, as their NHRA
Pro Stock drag racing competitors well know. The
father and son duo is equally hard to catch up
with while at their shop located in the outskirts
of Atlanta. That’s where they’re scheduled for an
interview on a weekday fall morning. But with
just two events left in the homestretch of the 2006
POWERade Drag Racing Series — including the
sixth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals
at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — the
two simply can’t sit still.
Warren, the 63-year-old silver-haired “Professor of Pro
Stock,” strides through the shop at a pace that
for some would be a jog, stops to warmly welcome me — then quickly moves on. Kurt — 43 and a younger,
slightly taller version of his dad — is just as cordial. He also
stops just long enough for an introduction, but is pulled away
by dozens of tasks related to rebuilding his ACDelco-sponsored
Chevy Cobalt, which is currently in pieces on the shop floor.
While Kurt and Warren bear an obvious resemblance and are
similarly dressed this day in jeans and logoed polo shirts, it’s
their unassuming, straightforward manner — coupled with a
shared dry wit — that mark them as not only father and son,
but two men who spend a lot of time together. Each conveys a
composure and confidence that comes from plenty of time spent
in the spotlight.
But perhaps their most common trait — and their strongest
bond — is their like-minded, relentless obsession for building
and driving the fastest Pro Stock cars on the circuit. Though
they’re competitors on the track and often go head to head, their
overriding goal is to make their joint racing operations a success
week after week, year after year. “It’s a 24-hour-a-day business,”
A family affair
Not much separates business from their personal lives, or the
lives of their families, as a tour of their state-of-the-art, warehouse-sized shop confirms.
Warren’s wife, Arlene, runs the front office (accompanied by
a rescued Doberman named Maddie, who sleeps underneath a
glass case filled with Warren’s trophies), and Kurt’s wife, Kathy,
helps out part time. Their three kids — Connor, 10, Erin, 8, and
Jarrett, 6 — also are regulars at the shop, as evidenced by a big
box of children’s videos tucked under Kathy’s desk.
Connor, in fact, is already showing the same traits that marked
his dad’s early years. “When Kurt was six, we would come back
after a race and he knew all the times and standings,” Arlene
recalls. “If someone said, ‘What did so and so run?’ he knew it.
Connor’s like that now.” Like father, like son, I ask. “More like
grandson, like son,” she laughs.
Checking out Kurt’s and Warren’s individual work areas and
the trailers that serve as their pits at the track reveals some
not-so-subtle differences between the two racers. Kurt’s office,
located in the back corner of the shop adjacent to the engineassembly and dyno rooms, is plastered with memorabilia of the
band KISS. The radios in both his office and trailer crank out
rock. Warren’s office in the front of the building is more low-key,
while the radio in his trailer quietly plays country music.
When Kurt and Warren finally take a break to do the interview
over lunch at a nearby restaurant, Warren changes into a dress
shirt for the occasion, which Kurt sees as an opportunity to poke
fun at his dad.
School is a drag
On the way to lunch, Kurt is behind the wheel of his family’s
spotless white Chevy minivan, while Warren chats about his
start in racing.
“I was raised on a farm in Northern Minnesota so my
mechanical abilities were borne out of necessity,” he says. “I
had to learn how to keep things running because we couldn’t
on the track and
often go head
to head, their
overriding goal is
to make their joint
a success week
year after year.
call a local repairman. We didn’t even have a telephone back
then. We had to figure it out on our own.”
He started drag racing locally in the early 1960s, working
his way up to the national level. “I started racing full time in
1976,” Warren notes. “Before that, I bought a machine shop
and I was building engines for all forms of racing. When I had
the machine shop paid off, I looked at doing it full time. That’s
where all this foolishness started.”
The foolishness led Warren to six NHRA Pro Stock championships and 96 event wins (and counting), the most ever in Pro
Stock and the second highest in NHRA history. Along the way
he also earned a reputation as a highly analytical competitor,
keeping meticulous notes on the various aspects of each track,
car and run — hence, the “Professor” title.
Kurt followed his dad onto the track in 1993, finishing his rookie
season in second place — just behind his father. But his involvement in the family business started with sweeping floors in the
shop as a boy. After graduating to building engines, Kurt decided to
take the wheel. “I’d been around the cars for so long, I figured it was
time to take the next step,” he shrugs. “So I went to driving school
in 1992, made 11 or 12 runs, got my license and off I went.”
“I never pushed him into it,” Warren says of Kurt’s decision to
race. “If he wanted to go to college we would have paid for that.
It was up to him to make the decision. Maybe he looked at it as
the easy way out,” Warren remarks with a chuckle.
“Well, I never went to college to find out,” Kurt shoots back,
prompting a hearty laugh from both. “Learning how to run a
professional race team, dealing with people and the technical
aspect of being able to make enough power to win races and
being competitive has been like college in itself,” he adds. Of
course, his teacher was “the Professor” himself, but it also
meant he’d eventually meet his mentor on the track.
Father vs. son
Warren has a practical view of the father-son competition.
“To me, it’s a win-win situation,” he says. “One of our cars
is going to move on in an elimination, or if we’re fortunate
enough that it’s a final, at least one of our cars will have
won. We’re both there to win that round no matter who is in
the other lane,” he declares. “It doesn’t make any difference
whether we’re racing each other or racing someone else. The
Opposite: Kurt (at left in ACDelco
shirt) is on hand to support
Warren’s run. Below: Kurt and
Warren credit their teamwork
and division of labor as one of the
keys to their success.
only difference is both of us know what we have for equipment. We all work on the stuff at the shop. So it’s almost like
you’re racing yourself equipment-wise.”
“A lot of people blow it out of proportion, like we’re at each
other’s throats on the racetrack,” Kurt contends. “We just go out
there and try our best. I don’t even look at him as a competitor.
He’s part of the team. It’s really just us, ACDelco and GM Performance Parts (Warren’s sponsor) against the rest of the world
more than anything.”
They credit their teamwork — and a division of labor — as
one of the keys to their success. “We split up the responsibilities,
which allows each one of us to do our jobs better,” Warren explains
on the drive back to the shop. “I take care of cylinder heads, intake
manifolds and carburetors, and Kurt and his guys take care of the
engine blocks, assembling everything and the dyno tuning. It
allows each of us to dedicate more time to one aspect of the operation to perfect it more. If you had one person trying to do the whole
job, you’d probably be weaker in some of the areas.”
Though it’s hard to imagine Kurt and Warren ever being weak
in any aspect of racing. “I’ve worked about 100 hours a week for
the last 40 years,” Warren reveals as a matter of fact rather than
as a boast after returning to the shop. “But it’s something I enjoy
and it’s probably what’s made us relatively successful. So I don’t
mind doing whatever it takes to get the job done.”
It’s a philosophy — and a work ethic — that’s rubbed off on
Kurt as well. “I’ve learned that you’re better off doing what you
have fun at,” he says. “Racing is a lot of hard work and training
is everything, just like with ACDelco technicians.”
Being a chip off the old engine block, Kurt believes, like his
dad, that winning on the track is determined by what takes
place in the shop. “Everybody is out there with almost the same
equipment and you’re trying to go faster than everybody else,”
he says. “So the competitor who takes all the parts and puts
them together better, and is quicker, is going to win.”
But it’s the drive to be the best that ultimately motivates Kurt
and Warren. “You always want more because everybody else
is always out there driving for more,” Warren states, sounding more like a hungry rookie than Pro Stock’s patriarch. “You
always want to be better. The competition never sleeps, so we
can’t sleep either. If you’re not working, you’re falling behind.”
And with that, the interview is over and Kurt and Warren are
back to work. •
technician of the
This year’s winner tells what it takes to walk away with the title
By Scot Manna | photography by kris kerbawy
ompeting against seven of the finest Total Service Support (TSS) technicians from
the United States and Canada in this October’s Technician of the Millennium IV
competition was a challenge, to say the least. (These guys really knew their stuff!)
It was a high-speed, high-stakes race to the finish, and I’m honored to have come
out of it with the title of Technician of the Millennium IV. But it wasn’t an easy feat, so I
thought I’d share with you the steps it took along the way.
“Did I have what it takes to make it all the way to the finals?
Of course, I did. I’m an ACDelco TSS technician...”
Step 1. Muster up the courage
To sign up or not to sign up? That was the question. And
a grueling one at that. Did I have what it takes to make it
all the way to the finals? Of course, I did. I’m an ACDelco
TSS technician — but so were the rest of the competition.
Every journey begins with that first step though. I just had to
remind myself that I could do it. With ACDelco’s support, I’d
mastered the skills, gained the confidence and received the
hands-on experience it takes to compete at this level.
Step 2. Kiss the wife and kids goodbye
OK, just kidding on this one. But, seriously, committing to a
competition like this meant spending some late nights in the
shop, especially when preparing for the hands-on semifinals
Step 3. Get ASE certified
All Technician of the Millennium IV competitors needed to be
ASE certified in brakes and electrical systems just to advance to
the second round. Good thing ACDelco’s TSS Program provided
me with the training I needed to prepare for the ASE testing.
Step 4. Hit the books
Getting my ASE certification was only the first step in the
tough testing process. Next up was a 100-question online test,
which was similar in format to the ASE tests. I knew only the
five best-scoring technicians from each region would move on
to regional semifinals. I had some studying to do!
Step 5. Face the competition
I’d made it to the hands-on semifinals held at the GM
Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Mich. I went up against
the four other finalists from my region in a contest that
tested our ability to diagnose and repair predetermined
“bugs” placed in identical 2006 Chevy Malibus. We knew in
advance what vehicle was going to be selected for bugging.
Believe me, I knew that car inside out!
Step 6. Don’t crack under the pressure
Boy, was I nervous when I found out I’d be advancing to the
finals. After all, this is national competition. Whenever I felt my
confidence begin to waiver, I reminded myself why I had made
it this far. Hey, I was well trained and ready to roll!
Step 7. Practice, practice, practice
Like several other finalists, I went out and rented the vehicle
that was to be used in the finals. I figured anything I could
learn about the car ahead of time might save me precious
time during the finals.
Step 8. Head to Vegas, baby!
This was it. My chance to go head to head with the best of
Step 9. Skip the blackjack table
I had to get to bed early. I know, I know. It’s Vegas! But would
my competitors be up late gambling or hitting the all-night
buffet with this much on the line? I don’t think so!
Step 10. Put your game face on
I needed to be a lean, mean, problem-solving machine on
the morning of the competition. No little chocolate donuts
for this guy. Eating a healthy breakfast and going easy on
the caffeine made a difference. Trust me, my hands were
shaking enough without a stop at the local coffee shop. Even
though the pressure was on, I kept reminding myself what
the judges had said from the beginning, “Have fun!”
Step 11. Step into the ring
the best in a timed, hands-on contest that’s one of the highlights of the ACDelco National Convention. It takes superior
technical skill and professionalism — not to mention nerves of
steel — to compete at this level, especially since judges surrounded me, as well as family and friends who traveled from
the Midwest to cheer me on. You couldn’t miss them. They had
front-row seats and wore shirts with the words “Team Manna”
embroidered on the back!
Eight technicians, two hours, one Technician of the Millennium IV title — plus, more than $41,000 in prizes, including a
GM vehicle of the winner’s choice. The judges, using a point
system, looked for workmanship, accuracy and professionalism. At the end, every car was evaluated and each repair
scrutinized for accuracy.
Step 12. Bask in the glory
Being named Technician of the Millennium IV is definitely the
highlight of my career as a technician. Looking back, it was a
long road to get to this point. But I learned a lot, made some great
friends along the way and had an experience I’ll never forget. When
I took that first step and registered for the competition, I couldn’t
imagine the adventures that would lie ahead. Being named Technician of the Millennium IV has truly been a dream come true. •
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• BG• BG
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k out old models
hot, new commod
pretty much ever
y teenager’s drea
to come home fr
om getting his
license and find
a shiny, brand-ne
w car waiting
in the driveway.
Or is it?
Today, some of th
e hippest wheel
s for big-city,
s are older mod
els com mon ly
Chevrolets and C
adillacs from the
and early 1990s.
g these so-called
ca rs w it h new
or re st ored en
g ines, la rge
wheels, and shin
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says Brian Scot
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Donk, Box & Bubb
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business for urba
Scotto, speaking from a Milwaukee photo shoot
for the second issue of the surprise hit, Donk,
Box & Bubble, says the trend started in the
Southern United States but has quickly spread
throughout the rest of the country.
J.D. Power & Associates’ Power Information Network reports that buyers aged 16
to 35 accounted for 56% of sales of 1982
Chevrolets last year. Similarly, the age group
represented 46% of 1983 Chevrolet sales and
46% of 1986 Buick sales in 2005 as well.
The popular name for these souped-up
“grandpa” cars is “boxes,” which Scotto
defines as a mid-80s ride with a boxy rear
clip, like the Chevy Impala, Caprice or Monte
Carlo. “Bubbles” are early ’90s Impalas or
Caprices with rounded front and rear ends,
while “donks” are any mid-70s Caprice or
Impala with a sloping tail.
“I’ve heard a number of explanations for
how the term ‘donk’ came about, but most
say it was originally shortened from ‘donny harmer
otography by to
key’ because the Impala emblem — the
antelope — looked like one,” Scotto says.
“Donks, boxes and bubbles aren’t niche vehicles.
These cars were mass produced. There are tens — if not
hundreds — of thousands of them out there. Since
they enjoyed gigantic production runs, there are many parts
and accessories still available for them.” – Peter MacGillivray, SEMA VP of marketing
When it comes to donks, boxes and bubbles, everything
has to be big. “Big has different meanings when referring
to these vehicles,” says Daniel Perez, CEO and founder of
MIA Entertainment Inc., which includes King of the Street
magazine and East Coast Ryders. “Big can refer to size, but
it also describes a flashy, wild and loud appearance.”
Vehicle availability also fuels the trend. “Donks, boxes and
bubbles aren’t niche vehicles,” says Peter MacGillivray, vice
president of marketing for the Specialty Equipment Market
Association (SEMA). “These cars were mass produced. There
are tens — if not hundreds — of thousands of them out there.
Since they enjoyed gigantic production runs, there are many
parts and accessories still available for them.”
ACDelco Total Service Support member George Bates
says it’s easy to understand why these cars are popular with
today’s drivers. “They’re affordable, plentiful and can be
easily modified,” says the owner of George Bates Automotive
in Upland, Calif., who specializes in servicing Impalas.
He turns to the ACDelco Parts Catalog at acdelco.com and
his local ACDelco WD, Kay Automotive, to find the numerous
parts and products ACDelco carries for these vehicles. The GM
Goodwrench Web site (gmgoodwrench.com) is another great
resource for GM Restoration, Performance and Collision Parts.
Bates says working closely with a nearby body shop has
helped him build up his Impala clientele. “The body shop
handles modifying the exterior appearance, and we take care
of the mechanical maintenance, repair and refurbishing,”
he adds. “I’m also active in numerous Impala clubs. In fact, I
traveled to Las Vegas in October for a show. They may not be
25 years old, but these Impalas are already classics.”
set the trend
Creating the right look
Ideas on how to
donk, box and bu
Some donk, box and bubble owners can pay as little as $500
for their vehicles if they’re lucky. The minimal investment
means that instead of spending several hundred dollars on
While donk, bo
car payments each month they put their cash toward monthly
x and bubble ve
hicles may not
ing, here are a
upgrades, such as a dazzling new grille or fender flares.
few ideas for at
tracting their dr
Accessories and paint are chosen for their ability to add
• Learn about the category.
a unique look or to make a car stand out. Common modifiRead magazines
such as Rides
and Donk, Box
cations include the high-rise look, shiny or flake paints in
& Bubble (below)
“K ing of the
et” DVDs from Ea
bright colors like orange and lime green, flashy aesthetics
st Coast Ryders.
t donk, box
d bubble shows
(the checkered flame design popular in the South), stereo
liste d on sites lik
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systems with several subwoofers in the trunk, and auto
d eastcoastr yder
bodies that are “skinned” for a smooth look.
ners a place to sh
ow off their cars by
hosting a show
or cruise night in yo
Donk, Box & Bubble’s Scotto says the typical vehicle with
ur parking lot.
• Begin stocking the parts an
rims and a flashy paint job costs around $5,000. “Although
d accessories mos
If you’re not sure
t in demand.
I’ve seen extremists spend up to $80,000,” he adds.
which products to
carry because yo
Some donk, box and bubble owners handle
yet getting reques
ts, talk to a few ow
vehicle repair and maintenance themselves,
• Take advantage of the educ
but the majority still takes their cars to ISCs.
and resources on
the Specialty Equip
Scotto says the potential for sales and
A) Web site (sem
service is higher with these cars than with
• Be respectful. “Whether en
ts are into
ot hers because ow ners a re consta nt ly
sp or ts ca rs, of f-r
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yo u wa nt
modifying them. “We’ll shoot a car for the
to show respect
for their passion
en if it’s
magazine only to find out that it looks totally NO
not your flavor,”
says Peter MacGi
different six months later,” he says. “They
Atlant a / Both
“OUTLAW” / ’72
> PINK DY
> LIFTED ’LAC OLN
> JUICED LINC
DONK IMPALA*’71 FACE LIFT
marketing for SE
Over 35 of theever seen!
CAPRICE / N.C.
“TRE 4” / ’88 BOX
ICE / N.C.
“BIG FOOT” / ’94
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keep changing the car to stay up with what’s cool.”
While it currently tends to be an urban trend, suburban shops can establish a reputation for doing good work
on donks, boxes and bubbles and entice customers from
SHIP GRP: 02/07/
“Many entertainment and fashion trends
start in pocket markets and become more
widespread and mainstream as magazines
and other media outlets report on the trend,”
SEMA’s MacGillivray says. “That’s what we’re
starting to see in this market. It’s similar to
the sport compact trend that started a decade
ago in Southern California and is now a global
business worth several billion dollars.”
Shop owners outside urban locations that
invest a little time now to learn more about the
trend before it reaches their neck of the woods
could have a competitive advantage over a
competitor that didn’t see this trend coming.
“The popularity of these cars will eventually reach suburban or small-town youth who inherit their grandfather’s Buick
LeSabre and want a customized look so that peers admire,
not pity, them in the school parking lot,” MacGillivray says.
“ISCs that get into it now could be in for big sales later.” •
photo courtesy of kurt and warren johnson
one more thing ...
“Kurt’s son Connor is already showing the same traits that marked his dad’s early years.
When Kurt was six, we would come back after a race and he knew all the times and
standings. If someone said, ‘What did so and so run?’ he knew it. Connor’s like that now.
Like father, like son.”
— Arlene Johnson, Kurt Johnson’s mother
The Ultimate Battery Sales Tool
Proactive battery testing is an idea that
works. Statistics from recent National
Car Care Month events show that 77%
of all vehicles brought into check lanes
during these events are found to be in
need of repair or maintenance. Don’t
miss an opportunity to increase your
business and improve customer
It’s as easy as 1-2-3:
1) Perform a battery test on every
vehicle that enters your shop
with your Micro500XL tester.
2) Print out the test results and
review them with your customer.
3) Advise battery replacement
Proactive battery testing gives you a
great competitive advantage. By testing
every battery, you can improve your
customer satisfaction by ensuring that
every customer knows they are leaving
your shop with a good battery – all while
increasing battery and related electrical
sales. Consistency is the key to success.
Make sure to test every battery and
promote the fact that your shop offers
this FREE service. By committing to help
your customers as well as your shop, you
are committing to be successful!
Don’t have a Micro500XL?
Contact your ACDelco distributor and
order Midtronics’ P/N: MCR-500-XL-KIT
For more information about Midtronics equipment visit www.midtronics.com or
call 1-800-776-1995 and ask for the ACDelco account manager.
©2005 Midtronics, Inc P/N MK060142
in our next issue ...
Brake Bucks winners go to Bondurant
ACDelco’s summer brake promotion winners celebrate at
the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Racing.
The Talent Bank at home
Shop owners wanting to recruit top-notch employees
may have to look no further than their own front door.
... and much more !
The “Fuel Injection Wizard” discusses the new EFI
engine he’s added for the 2007 race season and what
lies ahead for him in the coming year.
For more information about ACDelco products
and programs, or to have an ACDelco sales
representative contact you, call 1-800-ACDelco.
6703 Haggerty Road
Belleville, MI 48111
Change Service Requested